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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindle Fire: My Thoughts

My Kindle Fire arrived on Wednesday. This was later than a lot of people, but I'd waffled for a few days before deciding to order, so I wasn't at the front of the queue.

The first thing I thought as I lifted the Fire from the box was this is heavy. I have a Kindle 2, and even with the external keyboard, it's lighter than the Fire. This weight really registered later in the evening when I was using it while I sat on the couch. My case came a day later, so this was all the device. I'm putting this in the minus column.

Unlike my regular Kindle, the Fire has a glossy touch screen. I didn't have an issue with glare, although I read online that others have, but I did have some trouble with the touch part. First, when held in the normal vertical position, the onscreen keyboard is very narrow and I frequently touched the wrong keys. Secondly, sometimes I had to touch repeatedly before the Fire registered it. I don't know if it's me since this is my first touch screen or the Kindle. This touching issue became more challenging considering how tiny some website links appeared on the device. The third issue was all the fingerprints I left behind. They were really obvious when the screen was black and I hate fingerprints on computer screens. I'm giving this another minus.

Setup was easy, and as I bought it on my account and not as a gift, I didn't have to do anything with that. It automatically registered itself. Setting up one-click buying was also a snap. The interface with the Kindle store is smooth, seamless, and so awesome, it's going to be easy to spend money on eBooks. Too easy, but I'll call this a plus anyway. :-)

I authorized apps from third parties and was able to download the Barnes & Noble Nook app onto my Amazon Kindle Fire. :-) This elated me because having everything in one place is the ultimate goal, right? The only problem I have is that only a fraction of my Nook books would download onto my Fire. I haven't had time to investigate this yet. And while this is semi-annoying, I never expected I'd be able to get any Nook books on my Fire, so this is a plus.

Amazon loads the icons for a few apps on the device when it's delivered, but if you want them, you still need to download them. The ones I checked out like Pandora and IMDB were free. I also checked out the app store and found some cool stuff. Bejeweled 2 was the free app of the day last Wednesday, so I got that. I also picked up Tune-In Radio which lets me listen to radio stations from around the world. I listened to the BBC for a while and also a station in Australia. Then there was the police scanner app--I forget what it's called--I was able to listen in on the LAPD for a bit. I also downloaded the Seesmic app for Android because the Twitter site stayed completely blank in the browser. All these apps were free. I'm putting this in the plus column as well.

I streamed a movie to the Fire on Friday and this worked very well. No stuttering of the movie--it played smoothly--and the images were crisp. The movie I test ran was a free offering through the Amazon Prime membership and selecting it was easy. A couple of taps and I had launch. I think individual internet connections will affect this, but my cable company was up to the task. Plus.

But y'all want to know what it was like to read on. I liked it. The screen is backlit, unlike the regular Kindles and their e-ink, but that was actually one of the reasons I decided to buy it. I don't have enough light in my bedroom to read the regular Kindle without using a book light and I never manage to position that thing right for me. Reading on the backlit screen of the Fire was perfect. The only issue I had--again--was with the touch screen. Sometimes it wouldn't change pages, sometimes I brought up the controls on the bottom of the screen by accident. I'm guessing this is me and learning how it works. Overall, plus.

There is no HDMI port, actually no ports at all beyond a place to plug-in headphones and the power cord. I need to find out if I can use the power port with a USB cord to hook into my laptop and side load books. This is another thing I haven't had time to explore.

Turning the Fire turns the screen orientation as well. I know Apple has done this on their portable devices, but I don't have any of those things and it surprised me the first time I moved the device and had the screen adjust itself. Once I got used to it, it was cool. Plus.

Overall, I like the Kindle Fire. Despite what you've read online and in the media, it's not a competitor for Apple's iPad, at least that's my opinion. It's an ereader that has some bonus functions like streaming music and internet access if you're somewhere with WiFi. The iPad is a machine that can work as well as play, the Fire seems to mostly be an entertainment portal. If you're looking for an iPad, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a color ereader with a backlit screen and some additional features, the Fire is a good choice.

Qualified thumbs up.